Entries by: Phred Brown

Inside Super Bowl 50

Written by :
Published on : February 14, 2016











Sunday, February 7th 2016
11:37 am

Today, the NFL’s 50th Super Bowl will feature the Denver Broncos taking on the Carolina Panthers at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. And I’m on my way there.



12:45pm lobby call

Police escorts ride on motorcycles between cars, shutting off the flow of traffic so that we can get to the stadium in good time. We’ve been rehearsing on the field all week but security is super tight. Our badges can be held up to a scanner that lets you on to the field and other secured areas. Walking in past the first security checkpoint presents a crazy landscape of people: Paparazzi with huge cameras, Military personnel with AK-47s and ticketless fans with lawn chairs for the sidewalk.


Heading back towards my dressing room, the scenery settles. So much so that right outside the Queen’s dressing room, Jay-Z sits on a cement picnic table bobbing his head to the Fugees… “One time… Two times..”


I’m doing the Super Bowl. Again.




I am currently standing on the field. Seats are pretty empty, we’re still two hours ahead of kick off. I call my mom. “Turn on CBS. Can you see me? I can see their studio but it’s pretty far from me.”


This is my second Pepsi halftime show and is already a lot different. For one thing, it’s 75 and sunny. Far from the brisk 50 degrees we were thankful to get two years ago (earlier that week, New Jersey was only offering 12 degrees to rehearse in.) I’ve got my backpack, with a football and a sharpie at all times. Never know who you’re gonna run into. It’s a good thing I bought my ball days ago, this line at the NFL shop is crazy and they are out of footballs. We have an NFL escort that gets us in and out quick, much to the disdain of a Panthers fan.


It’s 2:01, kick off is 3:30 and I’m trying to get a few things done: football signed, see some of the game without a ticket and get some better pictures of the field. Gaga’s coming down the hall. I smile, she smiles. Saw someone I knew walking to the field to watch Lady Gaga sing – perfect. Jumped on the bandwagon and with the help of an escort, now I’m back on the field. There’s Olivia Munn, which means that… Yep, Aaron Rodgers right behind her.


They’re announcing MVPs from every Super Bowl. Of course everyone loves Joe Montana here. Brady walks out and the whole stadium boos. It’s 3:15.  There goes Jerry Rice.


The teams come running out. Panthers first then Broncos. Didn’t dawn on me that I’m on the sideline, now right behind the Panthers bench. Behind me is James Harden and Trevor Ariza, in seats.
The crowd seems to be mostly orange with splotches of neon blue. They are chanting something intelligible but stop for a great arrangement of “America the Beautiful.”



Oh right, Gaga. She’s great, and the navy flies right over my head. As soon as that’s over, the sideline starts to scurry. I know I’m about to get kicked out. Rather than get kicked out of the stadium, I decide to quit while I’m ahead. Get to the tunnel and find a pocket to hide in, long enough to see the kickoff of Super Bowl 50. Security says I can’t stand there, so I watch the first Broncos play walking backward. Scan out.


I head back out of the stadium to my dressing room tent, cops are on watch and listening to the game on radios. I can hear cheering, something good must be happening. 3:45, or an hour ’til showtime.


I shuffle through Beyonce’s dance army as they rehearse and into our dressing room. I watch the game on a TV while getting dressed for the show: Versace leather shirt. Versace leather pants. Versace chains. Versace sunglasses. Tall black socks. Nike shoes. Broncos up 3-0, that must’ve been what I heard when I was walking. I had cut it close standing on the field and now I’m dressed just in time to head into stadium. Gotta be close to the end of the first quarter.


Miles and me.
Miles and me.


Walking through these halls in all leather commands a little bit of attention. In the stadium dressing room now, monitor engineer Ramone puts my “ears” on me (molded in ear headphones) and my head set mic. Add that to this black leather and I’m feeling pretty ’90s right about now. There’s a tv in the hallway. 10-0, Broncos. 4:48 in the first. Miles the Bronco and I snap a quick pic. Beyoncé rides up on a chariot golf cart to applause from her dancers. Now, we wait. Game’s on, stand around, practice dance moves. The hallway smells. I check my watch. It’s 4:20.


My main view of the game.
My main view of the game.



Everybody comes out for a group prayer.

Wait more.

Wait more. Time is slowing down.



No nerves in the tunnel.  10 minutes to showtime.
No nerves in the tunnel. 10 minutes to showtime.


Walk to the tunnel.

Wait in the tunnel. So much waiting.



This is the third time out on the field. Stage has been pushed together. We keep getting shuffled around because crowd is coming in and ground dancers are getting set. At this event, even the audience on the ground is cast, and everyone stands in the same spot every time.  Which means I’ve been smiling at the same strangers in the same spot everyday at rehearsal.  Coldplay and kids kick off the show and I have about 7 minutes to stand and take in the half time show. Pyro. Screaming. All I can do is look up at the stage, out to the 70,000 (?) people and in all directions to try and take in as much of this as I can. It’s a careful balance because I don’t want the only thought I remember to be “remember this moment.” I hand my cell phone to Andy (my friend and guitar tech) who offers to take pictures while we’re on stage.






Coldplay’s halfway through their 3rd song. Time to get set. I walk up onto the stage and it’s time for the muscle memory to take over. Just about anyone I can think of is more than likely looking at a TV screen right now. Mark Ronson scratches us in. This feels slow, that’s how you know your adrenaline is high. The rest of the performance is a flash and it’s over before you know it.


Doing these kind of events is like your birthday – you hear from everyone. Facebook is booming, Instagram is jamming, texts keep coming and Hi-Fives are flying. “How was it? Has anyone found a video yet?”


The hard work is over and seems to have paid off. Let’s check back into the checklist:

Get on the field for a little of the game – Check.

Get signatures from everyone we played with. Right… Sharpie in my pocket, everybody’s in the dressing room and I’m good to go. Two years ago when we did this the first time, I had the idea to buy a football and ask everyone I performed with to sign it. This year is the same, but lots of signatures to get. Managed to get just about everyone. Cool. This will go along with the football from 2014 and guitars from both performances in a home memorabilia installation from the heavens.


Not my football, but one I had access to in the meantime.
Not my football, but one I had access to in the meantime.


I head back to the hotel. My fiancé and I catch up on all of these stories and we head out to an after party. I got to meet and work with so many great people over the last few weeks and it is great to finally be able to just hang out and talk or share a drink. Hope everyone enjoyed the game and performances, this is another year I’ve had to watch them through replay and with good reason. Scan out.



Fair Weather Fans

Written by :
Published on : January 14, 2016



There is a stigma in the sports world about fans who come around when the good times are rolling. They showed up to your Super Bowl Party last year in Patriots gear even though we all know they grew up in Atlanta. We’re pretty sure we saw them in 3 different jerseys during the NBA playoffs. They love the Kansas City Royals but can’t think of their favorite player’s name right now. These people are called “Fair Weather” fans and while their clothing may match the team currently in the spotlight, their chameleon-like ways are unparalleled. Many fanatics look down upon Bandwagoneers, accusing them of not being “real fans.” I am here today to argue in their defense and perhaps even admit to sometimes being one.

Palter comic
                                                                  Illustration by Natalie Palter



If we take a look at the four major American sports, (football, baseball, basketball and hockey) there are 122 professional teams that compete for a championship every year. Only four teams can win, meaning that 118 fan bases watch their team suffer a season ending loss in helpless disappointment. I suppose you could count conference championships as some kind of consolation but I don’t know many fans who brag about losing in the finals. Let’s broaden our definition of success and say that the final four teams left in each sport’s playoff have had a fan-acceptable season. The remaining 87% percent of teams have let their fans down, give or take a bottom-of-the-barrel team having a breakthrough year. Are we expected to stand behind a team for 16, 82, even 162 games and ache through loss after loss? Should I stop at the merchandise booth after watching “my team” get blown out and buy a hat? Is expensive beer and hot dogs enough of a reason to spend my hard earned cash on tickets?


Lions fans
                             Detroit fandom is bigger than sports. (Photo from positivedetroit.com)


I am a Detroiter above all other city-related commitments. Supporting Detroit sports goes beyond the teams themselves and into representing the city, waving the flag and manifesting a feeling of being home. Last year, I bought a Warriors hat. In fact, I bought two. I bought these hats for two reasons. For one, I liked the hats. Secondly, and more importantly for the context of this discourse, the Warriors are GREAT. They are fun to watch and their story excites me. I turn their games on and see an arena of yellow and blue erupt after Steph Curry hits a fadeaway jumper from half court and it beckons to me. It says “Come on, join us. This is how free time should be spent.” Now the Warriors might be the easiest sell in sports right now so let’s take a look at “fair weather” from another perspective.


It’s January and the NFL has been cut in half for the playoffs. The Lions are out. LA doesn’t have a team yet (but will next year!). I can’t just tune out – it’s the postseason. Come Super Bowl Sunday, the team I’m picking to win it all will probably have changed a time or two as teams continue to get eliminated. But if we were 100% ride-or-die on our teams, the NFL would gross significantly less as we approach its biggest game. Which brings me to what I think makes Fair Weather Fans most important: where they spend their money.


                                            4-76? Philly on the road to history in the wrong direction.



The Philadelphia 76ers are currently 4-36. That means I can reasonably assume that there is a 1-in-10 chance they will win. Am I buying a ticket to go see them? No. Jersey? Not a chance. Who is on their team, you ask? Exactly. And that should put a sense of urgency in everyone in that organization from the top down because money shouldn’t be coming in for them. Who is paying to see that? I’m actually shocked that it’s possible to lose that much and make money but Javale McGee is making $12M this year, and he isn’t even on the team anymore. The expectation to work all week, pay bills and taxes, then turn around and spend more of our precious income watching something bum us out in the name of loyalty is absurd. Get better, win games. Otherwise I’m going to watch the Splash Bros provide a pleasant break from my routine.


To spin this one more time, let’s step into a world I’m more familiar with – music. I don’t go to see bands who play songs I dislike. I can’t imagine anyone does unless their friend is the bass player. I watch bands I like and I discover new bands because their songs go on winning streaks. A band does not break through because they continually write songs that don’t catch on.


It’s always sunny in San Antonio: The Spurs have made the playoffs 18 years in a row, bringing them 5 NBA Championships (Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE, via Getty)



I don’t intend to take meaning away from the love that exists between a fan and their team. But I do think when your team finally has everything come together and the winning starts happening, you’d be bummed to see the arena as empty as it was when you sat through that 13-game losing streak. And the fans showing up to watch your winning team are the same ones who were at the other winning affairs across town. We love sports because we love competition and we love competition because we love winning. Tell us all about how you were a fan way back when and think what you will about us jumping on the bandwagon. We are the party. We’ll be there when your team is good and when they’re not, we’ll go have our fun somewhere else. “Fair Weather Fans” are earned.



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